Friday, May 08, 2015

VE Day or DDE Day?

Ohrdruf_ViewSorry this blog has been sporadic while I try to complete my dissertation. But I felt I needed to say something about this momentous anniversary.

On Tuesday this week I paid a visit to a senior living facility that I must have driven by hundreds of times and never paid attention to.

Inside I saw something that broke my heart.

Sitting around the lobby, dozens of faces lit up when I walked in. I was there for a meeting and didn't have time to shmuze. They looked so hopeful that maybe someone had come to visit with them.

One of the greatest thing that seniors suffer is loneliness, especially in their 80s and beyond. Many of their friends have passed away. They may have no family in town.

Some of those I saw are surely vets. I heard on the radio today that there are still 1,000,000 WWII vets alive today.

The stories they can tell.

Some of those I saw may be Survivors.

The stories they can tell.

Here's a WWII story that isn't told enough.

The first camp to be conquered was July 24, 1944, the Majdanek camp near Lublin Poland, by the Soviets. Before they retreated, the Germans tried to destroy evidence by taking survivors on a death march and burning the camp to the ground. The Germans continued this practice as the Allies slowly advanced on both fronts, and as the weather got colder, more Jews died in these death marches.

Until April 4, the Americans had heard reports from the Soviets but assumed they were exaggerated.

On April 4, 1945, the Americans entered Ohrdruf camp - that the Germans had created only five months earlier! - and learned the opposite was true, that the horrors had been vastly understated.

On April 12, 1945, Generals Eisenhower, Patton and Bradley toured the camp.

Click here for liberation photos: http://fcit.coedu.usf.edu/holocaust/resource/gallery/L1945B.htm
Click here for other useful links: http://fcit.coedu.usf.edu/holocaust/people/liberato.htm

I saw Eisenhower go to the opposite end of the road and vomit. From a distance I saw Patton bend over, holding his head with one hand and his abdomen with the other. And I soon became ill. I suggested to General Eisenhower that cables be sent immediately to President Roosevelt, Churchill, DeGaulle, urging people to come and see for themselves. The general nodded.
- Lt. Colonel Lewis H. Weinstein, chief of the liaison section of General Eisenhower's staff

"I have never felt able to describe my emotional reaction when I first came face to face with indisputable evidence of Nazi brutality and ruthless disregard of every shred of decency...I visited every nook and cranny of the camp because I felt it my duty to be in a position from then on to testify at first hand about these things in case there ever grew up at home the belief or assumption that the stories of Nazi brutality were just propaganda."
- General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Letter to Chief of Staff George Marshall, April 12, 1945
"We continue to uncover German concentration camps for political prisoners in which conditions of indescribable horror prevail. I have visited one of these myself and I assure you that whatever has been printed on them to date has been understatement....The things I saw beggar description....The visual evidence and the verbal testimony of starvation, cruelty and bestiality were so overpowering as to leave me a bit sick. In one room, where they were piled up twenty or thirty naked men, killed by starvation, George Patton would not even enter. He said that he would get sick if he did so. I made the visit deliberately, in order to be in a position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to 'propaganda.'
- DDE Cable to George C. Marshall, 4/19/45

Question for your table:

One day there will be no more living vets or survivors.... At that point, will we "know" that WWII and the Holocaust happened, or will it become a "belief"?

Shabbat Shalom